Classes in Fall 2020 were either fully virtual or hybrid. In hybrid classes, the professors would have to put the projector with some students being on zoom. This was a good idea because it helped students be safe and at the same time learn. It was also challenging because sometimes professors would pay more attention to the students that were in the classroom and not the ones on zoom. I took this picture a year ago to show my parents how classes were working. This was something my parents appreciated because they saw that St. Mary’s University was using all their resources to help students continue their studies. They liked seeing me continue my college experience in a different way but not fully virtual. I saved this picture for over a year to see the changes the world was going to have during the pandemic. I am glad we are finding new solutions and making changes with still being careful with COVID-19 guidelines.
I interviewed my younger sibling, 'F', and transcribed the audio. They completed Year 12 in 2020 and then began university in 2021, which I believe is a significant transitionary time especially in the context of Covid to document. Their experiences in using different media forms for online classes is insightful and provides an interesting comparison. Additionally they provide insights into changing interests, socialising online, and reflecting on the world around them. They reflect on how they believe the nature of people has changed in relation to each other in an isolated but connected world, which I believe will be an interesting and informative insight for the future to gain an indepth understanding of the Covd-19 era from the perspective of the youth.
The mask has had a huge impact on our sense of touch and smell. For one, breathing with a mask on was an adjustment. Tuna sandwiches became something to avoid at all costs because of the smell you could be stuck with all day by wearing a mask. There is also something to say about the feeling of a mask around your ears and over your nose. The constant practice of grabbing a mask and putting it around one's ears has become a ritual of protection or habit as we are now bound to this object like that of a cell phone which is now always on our person. The sense of touch also adapted to various kinds of masks that were promoted and the variety of masks that would be marketed for commercial value. The mask, one of the few things that forces us to run back inside the house because we forgot it. The mask, a true measuring stick for how quick we can adapt and change society for better and for worse.
This is a screenshot of my theology class syllabus including the newly included "face mask policy." I think this is important to include because even though all professors need to include the same information about mask policies, there are some who have just included what needed to be and other who have mentioned it in other areas of their syllabus. It's also interesting to see that this could be the first major change made to some of the professor's syllabi in some time. I submitted this item because it's a part of people's reaction to this pandemic and it heavily influenced changes in our "first-day of class routine." Coming back to school in-person after a whole year online, it was interesting to see how professors were now sharing more personal details about why they are being more careful, checking that students are wearing masks correctly, and some professors being more strict or lenient with the food/drink policy.
When the pandemic became widespread enough for schools to start shutting down, it seems that’s when life really changed. I remember - it was March 2020 - and my school district had just gone on spring break. It was still uncertain whether teachers and students would be returning to their classroom after break’s end. We were asked to come into our classrooms to gather any teaching supplies we might be able to use to teach virtually in the event that we would be told to remain at home. When I arrived at school, it was so quiet. There were a few cars parked in the parking lot, but no people to be seen. The usual student chatter, catching fragments of conversation as they walked by, the bustle of cars parking was gone. As I entered my building, a wave of chemically cleaned and sanitized air blasted my nostrils. The smells of bleach and whatever other industrial cleaners schools use wafted through the halls. They had recently been cleaned - I had never seen them so pristine. A few custodian cleaning carts were scattered nearby, but still no one to be seen. Every footfall seemed louder against the backdrop of silence. The deserted hallway and the chemical smell assaulting my olfactory system had turned my second home into something sterile and unwelcoming. Entering my classroom, I noticed it, too, had been sanitized with heavy chemicals and a jug of hand sanitizer had unceremoniously been plopped on my desk. I surveyed my classroom, nostrils burning from the bleach again, grabbed what I needed and went home. It would be the last time I would see my classroom for a long time. The memory of that shining, white hallway and the burning air of “purification” has stayed with me.
Here is a screenshot of a medical appointment reminder for a psychologist in regional Victoria. I had been seeing this psychologist for a few years at this point, however, during the pandemic only telehealth or phonecall appointments were available. These were stressful experiences to conduct these online and finding a safe, quiet space in my house was difficult. That being said, I was lucky to have a psychologist during this period, as I know that many people were not able to recieve adequate care due to the influx of necessity. I chose this appointment reminder specifically as it occurred during the brief reprieve from lockdown early in 2021. It shows how certain health providers (their names have been blacked out for anonymity) have their own unique requirements that must be followed.
The image is of a sticker I was presented with upon receiving my first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, Pfizer. I received my vaccine in regional Victoria and was given the sticker after checking in for my appointment. I was then shown the way to a vaccination booth which was located in the ballroom of a Hotel that had been converted for widespread vaccination. I had been eligible for the Astrazenica vaccine previously in my age bracket, however, I waited until Pfizer was available as there had been less side effects with greater efficacy reported. The vaccines been a contentious issue in the Australian media after delays in our vaccination program and domestic politics overshadowing health advice. These have contributed to a sense of mistrust and paranoia in some.
This is photograph shows one of my dogs, Elfie, sitting next to where I study for university during the pandemic. She and her sister, Bowie, would fall asleep next to me and keep me company. Often, they would help keep me motivated when I was struggling by hassling me back to the table. It is easy to look back over the past two years and look at the negatives, however, it is moments like the one depicted in the picture which help remind me that there were positive moments too.
This is an image of a week from my mother's chronicle. She is a secondary teacher in regional Victoria who primarily teaches Theatre Studies, Drama and English. During the time that the photograph was taken (October 2021), the school she is working at decided to stagger teaching different year levels to reduce the threat of a Covid-19 outbreak in the lead up to VCE exams. As highlighted in the chronicle in different colours, some classes would be taught in-person and others online in one day. As my family does not live in the same town that my mother teaches in, she would often have to stay at school the entire day regardless. Due to the nature of rapid changes in health information and additional directions from the school itself, every week in the chronicle looks very different to the next. The image shows an element of the chaos that is present in the everyday lives of individuals during covid and the ability for plans to rapidly change from day to day.
One thing that captures a sensory memory that relates to the COVID-19 pandemic for me is candles, specifically pumpkin spice candles. My wife and myself, like many other people, spent the majority of 2020 shut inside our home. Prior to this pandemic, we would often go out 3-4 nights a week. Nothing crazy, of course. Dinner, bowling, movie, etc. Typical married couple dates. However, once we were shut inside our house, we had to find other little things to occupy our time so we wouldn’t go stir crazy. My wife started buying a lot of scented candles from Amazon, and her favorite was pumpkin spice. I swear, my apartment smelled like pumpkin spice from about April of 2020 to January of 2021. The scent helped her relax, and it made me happy to know that she was finding ways to keep herself settled and centered. Now, whenever I’m out somewhere and catch a scent of pumpkin, I think of the two of us trapped in the apartment but working together to make the whole experience into a positive. I know that this is probably more of a sentimental story than what we were supposed to write, but this is what first came to my mind when I saw this assignment.
I found this sticker while I was walking to pick up a click-and-collect order. I was struck by it because of its reference to 'The White Rose', an anti-Nazi movement begun by Sophie Scholl in 1942 Germany. The insensitivity and total misunderstanding of what constitutes oppression is a touchstone to the anti-lockdown and anti-vaxxer movements. It made me wonder how they could appropriate histories of discrimination - do they simply not understand the Holocaust, or do they genuinely believe that their situation is similar to it?
Last year (2020) I was living at home with my parents. My mum noticed how the pandemic was affecting me mentally and suggested that I make a quilt as a therapeutic tool. It was my first ever quilt, and it took several months. I enjoyed making it so much that I've kept on making quilts ever since. This quilt, therefore, reminds me of the pandemic's silver linings; it forced me to take up a hobby, one that slows me down. This photo is of the quilt on my bed now in Melbourne (2021).
I bought this cookbook earlier this year from a local Melbourne lady. During the 2020 lockdowns, she decided to write a cookbook celebrating cooking and sharing food with friends during eased restrictions. Whenever I cook from this cookbook, I am reminded of how the pandemic was also an opportunity for many people to pursue new hobbies and interests, often creative ones, that they previously wouldn't have.
I began writing poetry last year (2020) since I suddenly found myself with much more time on my hands. I wrote this poem earlier this year when I was in a boring Zoom tutorial. Reflecting on it afterwards, I found the theme of lagging very pertinent for my feelings during the pandemic.
The story and my experience are an example of the many ways in which the pandemic affected individuals in different ways. It goes without saying that each person was impacted in varied ways due to Covid-19, however, not all of them were either explicitly negative or an outcome that is easily defined as being either beneficial or harmful. During the height of the pandemic in the United States, I was employed as an Assistant Warehouse Manager in Green Bay, WI. My workload and responsibilities were already a little taxing, but once things got in full swing with Covid they became even more so. I went from working an average of 60 hours a week to over 75. This was mainly due to about a third (or more) of our employees being out of work due to quarantine-type measures or actual illness. This went on for months at the beginning. Many weeks out of that time period there were as few as about a dozen of us running three shifts in a warehouse that normally employed roughly 40 workers. Also at this time, my wife became unemployed because her place of employment shut down. Others around me were losing their jobs in droves and facing financial hardship. But due to my position and the nature of the job, I had never had more job security and we never faced any kind of financial difficulties. On the contrary, during the entire pandemic, my wife and I never went without or struggled. This gave me a surreal feeling and one that I almost felt guilty for living through. Aside from some minor changes in my daily life, I barely noticed any personal changes due to Covid. All in all, it was an extremely odd time to live through; the pandemic wasn't necessarily bad for my wife and me, but I know it was for countless others. And that made it all the more strange.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, my favorite pastime was watching various cooking and food story-time videos on YouTube. Yet, there was one video in particular that caught my full wide attention. I remember on May 6th, 2021, at around 10:45 pm PST, this video appeared on my YouTube recommendations. The video thumbnail showed one of my favorite Korean street foods, Tteokbokki (Korean spicy stir-fried rice cakes), but with a new twist!
Growing up, I associated Tteokbokki with flavor notes such as the spiciness of the Gochujang and Gochugaru (Korean chili paste and chili powder), the sweetness of the Mulyeot (Korean corn syrup) in which also helps give the rice cakes its glossy shine, as well as using Sogogi dashida (Korean beef stock powder) to further enhance the umami tangy flavor. Of course, there are other variations of Tteokbokki such as Jjajang Tteokbokki (made with Black bean paste) and Gungjung Tteokbokki (made with both Soy sauce and beef) but the modern recipe with the Gochujang never failed to hit all my tastebuds. Well, that was until I discovered the video.
The video used the modern Tteokbokki recipe, but also adding in a new twist with ingredients such as heavy cream and milk to give the Tteokbokki a pink color. Because the Tteokbokki resembled the pink colors of a Rose pasta sauce, it became “Rose Tteokbokki.”
After watching the video and doing some research on Rose Tteokbokki (I ended up staying up till 3 am) I became convinced and made some for brunch.
Making Rose Tteokbokki for brunch was the best decision I ever made because it still kept the delicious flavor notes of the modern recipe but with the extra creaminess and cheesiness thanks to the heavy cream and milk. Also, adding in meats such as sausages and bacon along with Korean wide glass noodles gave the Rose Tteokbokki a unique chewy texture combo.
Once I finished up the Rose Tteokbokki, I posted a picture of the Rose Tteokbokki on my social media accounts, and one of my friends who live in Seoul replied with, “Jungeun! You’re also joining the Rose Tteokbokki bandwagon?! Everyone in Korea is rushing to make their own and/or ordering from the delivery apps because of Covid! Once Covid ends, come visit me and let’s eat Rose Tteokbokki together!” Reading my friend’s response left me with a big smile on my face, and it felt great to connect with the motherland even without physically being there through Rose Tteokbokki.
One of the most defining characteristics of my quarantine has been learning how to bake. After a year and a half, I am finally comfortable kneading, proofing, and baking. I have learned the tell-tale signs of under-proofed and over-proofed bread by touch (slightly indent the bread with the end of your finger and how the dough springs-back will tell you all you need). I have learned to listen for the hollow sound of fully cooked bread. However, one of the greatest joys I have found with baking is filling the house with the smell of cinnamon, sugar, and cardamom on a Sunday morning with my slightly adjusted cinnamon roll recipe from our well-used Betty Crocker’s 1961 New Picture Cookbook (it was my mum’s before me).
My family is Scandinavian, and the smell and taste of cardamom is ever-present in Scandinavian baking. Kanalsnegl, klejner, and fødselsdagboller are all delicious Danish and Norwegian cardamom classics. But Betty Crocker’s cinnamon rolls are also highly popular in my house. From this, a fusion roll was born. On Sunday mornings, the house is filled with cinnamon and cardamon of these classic buns. The Betty Crocker recipe calls for two teaspoons of cinnamon filling, but I sub one teaspoon with cardamom. I also add a pinch of cardamom to the butterscotch topping.
In a time of stressful uncertainty, the smell of freshly baked rolls with cinnamon and cardamom is like wrapping up in a comfortable blanket. I have attached the recipe if you want to try this sensory smell experience, too.
In the part of Maryland I live in, there is a lot of noise pollution caused by cars and planes. On one side there is a large international airport, a busy road on the other and a large highway on the third side. Almost every day, the sound of cars, planes and the occasional helicopter can be heard. However when the COVID19 pandemic began to pick up pace, lockdowns were set up in an attempt to slow its advance. While the affect of this was seen in large empty parking lots at the airport, it could also be heard. The roads were quiet, as less people went out to shop, see family or go out to eat. In addition with very few people traveling, the daily noise of airplanes declined significantly. Everything became far quieter and a reminder of the lockdown, a constant reminder that we were going through a major event in world history. However while the quiet brought about by the lockdowns was a reminder of the pandemic, the return of noise was just as much a reminder. When planes and particularly cars started to create more noise pollution, it showed that even with a global pandemic and lockdowns, it wasn't going to stop people from going out.
I am a high school teacher, so I used a lot of hand sanitizer long before COVID-19. One of the things that I will never forget from the pandemic was the smell of the hand sanitizer. There were shortages on all disinfectants for months, and the hand sanitizers I could find were brands I had never seen before. The worst part about this new hand sanitizers was the smell. They all had a sharp smell, much worse than the normal alcohol smell. Some smelled truly terrible, almost rotten. I put lemon essential oil in one to try to change the smell, but it made no difference. It just smelled like rotten citrus.
When my school went back in person in the fall of 2020, the worst part was having to sanitize all the time with the stinky hand sanitizer. I gained a whole new appreciation for Germ-X. It was almost sad how happy I was when I found a bottle of Germ-X stashed in my cupboard (because teachers were hoarding cleaning supplies before it was cool). I put it on my teacher desk behind my computer and hoarded it from the kids!
My story is about the absence of sound during the pandemic.
I live in a rural area of southeastern Louisiana. When I first moved here the only thing that you could hear at night was the natural sounds that one would think of when being in the country, but as developments started to move into my area the air was polluted with the sound of cars on the distant interstate. The nights become a harmony of grasshoppers and traffic all mixed into a melody that formed a hybrid of urban and rural life.
On the night of April 2nd, 2020 I was enjoying a night of looking at the stars through my telescope. It was a mainly clear night when I closed my eyes and began listening realized that I could no longer hear the cars on the interstate. Louisiana was in the mist of the a very high spike in COVID and lockdowns were in effect meaning there were fewer cars on the roads especially at night. I sat and listened for hours as I was able to hear all the sounds that were once masked by the intrusion of development on my rural area.
From about April 2nd until early July this quite remanded at night. It was not until Louisiana started to open up more that the sound of the cars returned to my nighttime symphony. When I look back on the early days of the pandemic this is the memory that stands out and how it will be remembered by me. Though a harsh time in the world and for humanity, the sounds of technology and modernization were drowned out by nature for a time and it made the nights a little more peaceful and less stressful with all that was going on in the world.
Before 2020, I hardly ever burned a candle. My parents had forbid it, convinced me or my siblings were going to forget about it and burn the house down. My dorm room had extremely strict (and understandable) rules about open flames and heat sources. It wasn’t until I had graduated college and moved back into and then out of my parents’ house that I was free of these regulations. Even then, though, it never occurred to me to buy candles. My favorite scents were often nature-based and could easily be experienced by visiting the ocean, or the forest, or the occasional bakery. It wasn’t until the pandemic, when I was living in Ohio without being comfortable traveling to the ocean, or to the forest, or in public at all, that I turned to candles. Soon one impulse purchase of a sea salt and balsam scented candle turned into a constant hunt for all of my favorite scents, to bring me to places I didn’t feel safe or responsible traveling to. My collection grew rapidly, and for the past year or so I’ve had a candle lit in my home almost every day. I never thought something a simple as a $7 candle I found at TJ Maxx or Bath & Body Works could bring me so much peace, calming my need to return to my favorite far-off places until it is once again safe to do so. Don’t get me wrong, candles still can’t compare to the real smells I adore, but even a weak imitation is better than a scent-less longing. Even though I’m currently residing in Ohio, I can use candles to feel connected to my home state of California, or my favorite places to visit, bringing comfort and familiarity in a time that is anything but comfort and familiar. My bank account may not be happy with me given this new habit, but it’s a price I am willing to pay.
Hawaii is a very unique place in terms of its beauty and overall welcoming atmosphere. I grew up knowing how popular of a destination spot my state is and how in many ways we are extremely dependent on outside sources to fuel our small island economies and businesses. I had thought that aspects I had become used to seeing, such as the extremely busy downtown shopping and tourism part of Hilo, would never change. The many common things you'd have smelled seen and heard were the many cars out on the road, the overfilled wastebaskets by every park and beach, the tents of entire families at many of the beaches, and the constant rush of modern living in Hawaii. Then in March through April of 2020, the university in which I was attending at the time made the big decision to cancel in person meetings for the foreseeable future.
The days of constant business and crowded areas in a matter of weeks ceased to be. In late April continuing until recently, the most common things you would see empty streets, closed signs, empty parking lots, and most importantly of all, you would actually get to smell the salt of the water from the ocean, the chirping of birds by the dozens in commercial areas, and even the return of sea turtles to what were known to be crowded beaches. It’s as if the lack of tourism and industry during Covid-19 gave us local residents a new perspective of our home. One where it felt like we could finally breathe and stretch out our legs for a bit while we dealt with the pandemic effects.
The memory I related is about the difference in taste and smell before I had covid versus after. It is still altered in some ways and did not return as it was before. I still find it jarring eat something that I used to love only to find that it tastes different and I no longer like it.
I can't think of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the shut downs and lock-ins, the stay-at-home orders without thinking of my brief foray into gardening.
My husband and I bought our house in northwest Baltimore in April 2019. Our little duplex sits near the end of an unbelievably picturesque street in a fairly affluent neighborhood known for its garden communities and HOA-hosted wine and cheese parties you have to pay to attend. The neighborhood is surrounded by much poorer neighborhoods and heavily-trafficked streets, the direct product of red-lining in Old Baltimore. While the Original Northwood neighborhood is much more diverse - demographically and economically - than it was when it was first established in the 1930s and 1940s, my husband and I, as some of the only residents under 40, still felt like we didn't necessarily fit in with our older, more well-to-do neighbors, despite absolutely adoring our little home, which had been lovingly renovated and reimagined by its previous tenants.
Come March 2020, however, the noise from the crowded streets, the surrounding neighborhoods, and from our own neighborhood, died down substantially. Our streets and its surrounds have always been a great place to go for a walk, but now every day people were strolling by in ones and twos, sometimes in small family units. Everyone needed to get out of the houses they were now cooped up in, and I was no exception.
Much to my mother's chagrin - and likely to my neighbors' embarrassment - I did not inherent my mother's green thumb. Because I am a millennial I found an app that identifies plants and set about rooting out weeds, pruning the flowers the previous tenants had not intended for me to neglect, picking up the endless stream of leaves from our several 100+ year old trees, digging up more weeds and debating with my husband about whether we should start an herb and vegetable garden or put in a patio in the little garden area that connects our front and back yards. I did not become proficient at gardening. I am much better than I was, however, at identifying the truly astonishing diversity of plants in my own garden and in my neighborhood by scent and even touch.
I learned that the dried and withered allium stalks pull effortlessly out of the ground after they die, that African violets also give way to a gentle scooping from the earth, and that thistle, of course, will still try to prick you as it attempts to cling to the soil. I learned that those thin but tough shoots of elm and oak born from the seeds and acorns the squirrels missed not only grow rapidly, but are extraordinarily difficult to rip from the earth. And no matter how much seemingly-delicate clover one claws at, its roots will always remain beneath the surface, as virulent in a day or two as when one earlier tore at it in complete dismay of its sheer stubbornness.
I did not become proficient at gardening. But I did relish the feeling of cool, damp earth underneath my hands, even in my fingernails, the crunch of dry leaves, the slick sliding of wet leaves, the red, angry weals left on my hands from those stubborn oaks. I felt accomplished as I pulled lovely, but ultimately threatening African violets and wild raspberry from underneath the spreading cover of the hostas, and as I pulled wild mint, lemon, and rosemary for tea and cooking. I told myself I'd use the ramps (a species of wild onion that smells and tastes sort of of like a combination between garlic and scallions) in a soup, as a college roommate of mine had done, but I forgot to harvest them in time. From what I recall, summertime is best, particularly late summertime.
The other thing I remember about this time spent in my garden, hands in the dirt, sweat on my brow, bug bites inflaming every available inch of skin, is the new sense of connection I felt with my neighbors who stopped to wave hello, nod and smile at my gardening efforts. Neighbors who I hadn't gotten to know before the pandemic which now prevented us, due to fear of contamination from contact with other people, from truly getting to know each other still. But somehow, the simple act of being out in my garden, doing this simple, repetitive toil, made me feel like I was participating in a ritual, an activity that linked me to the less unsavory past of the community, and to neighbors who otherwise might have remained alien in a plague environment that seemed to bring a new apocalypse with every week.
In the year 2020, I was a medical assistant working for a cancer surgery clinic. The pandemic posed huge challenges for people working in healthcare and created new staggering standards for cleanliness and infection control. With limited personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, it made everyday clinic operations very challenging. With cancer patients, most of whom were undergoing treatments that lowered their immune system, and many of whom had just had surgery which can increase risk of infection, medical staff took COVID safety precautions very seriously. Dealing with people battling illness can be challenging under normal circumstances because they are often feeling emotional and scared, but during COVID, tensions were running even higher. I will never forget patients using condescending, edgy, and outright angry tones with me when I would call for a COVID symptom screening prior to their appointment, inform them that they had to wear a mask at all times while in the clinic, or that they were unable to bring a family member to the exam room during a follow-up appointment with a doctor. Over the phone and in person, many patients used tense and tempestuous tones to take out their anger over a situation none of us had any control over. Often, there were political connotations to any discussion of clinic COVID policy, which was unusual in a conversation about infection control. Many patients would protest getting their temperature taken or question the accuracy of their oximetry reading (a started part of vitals even before the pandemic). It was always a relief to have a patient who took a dignified breath and calmly understood that the rules were in place for everyone's safety and were an inconvenience to all involved. There were several days where I would go off to an empty exam room during my lunch break and cry. Tension during the first year of the COVID pandemic was audible.
My maternal grandfather passed away late last year amidst a relatively heavy pandemic lockdown, and our family has since tried to fill in for him in caretaking for my grandmother. If he could have asked something of us, I know it would have only been to look after her. He was that kind of man. He didn’t need for anything for time with his family and friends, and his utmost concern was her welfare, even when she angered him.
Recurring and cyclic apprehension and uncertainty over transmission rates, long-term vaccine efficacy and inoculated antibody generation have forestalled several attempted return trips to my hometown. Data-driven doubts have eroded my wife’s confidence that our collective vaccinations will protect her aging parents from life-altering illness and death have prevented her from traveling with me, even though she wont readily admit that outside our home. In addition to everything else the pandemic has altered or taken from us, it’s also complicated my family’s efforts to care for each other.
My grandmother turned 86 recently, and her birthday was also their anniversary. They would have been married 63 years this month, and we wanted to make sure the day didn’t pass like any other lonely Tuesday since his death. My cousins and I put together a birthday dinner at the best restaurant in town, and I traveled back to New Mexico for a week to visit and help where I could. The trip turned out to inspire a self-reflection on the power of scent in my life, emotions, and memory.
I drove straight to my grandmother’s home on Blodgett Street. I pushed the front door open, and an unpleasant stink hit my nostrils.
Throughout my life, that home had particular smells that transitioned over time. Everyone in my family but the children smoked cigarettes while I was growing up, and it wasn’t unusual for a blue-gray haze to hang in my grandparents’ home during family holidays. It wasn’t uncommon for their 1000 sq. ft. home to sleep ten or fifteen people when we had something to celebrate or grieve. Ashtrays often overflowed if late night poker games grew too intense to step away from the dining table. I recall one Thanksgiving from my early childhood in which heavy cigarette smoke obscured my view of the backdoor while I stood near the front door.
Even through those early years, I associated their home with the smell of sweets. Baked goods, chocolate cakes, snickerdoodles, and sugar cereals, although I’m now surprised any of us could smell anything. I never ate Fruity Pebbles anywhere but their house. Word reached my family in the mid 80s that hotboxing the house was bad for everyone’s health, and they began smoking outside. Grandad hated that; he’s the one who paid off the mortgage, so he oughta be able to smoke wherever he damned well pleased. Still, he took it outside for the grandkids.
Since they stopped smoking in the house, and especially since they quit smoking fifteen years ago, I associated their home with a particular and pleasant fragrance. I never placed it, and I’ve never smelled it anywhere else. It wasn’t solely the scented wax my grandmother leaves on warming plates for too long, which are almost always homey food scents, like apple pie. The scent of their home welcomed me back to a place I am unconditionally loved, missed, and wanted. My jokes always hit, my cooking never failed, and everyone was always glad to see me. They were also glad to take my lunch money at the poker table, which I imagine might have contributed to my perpetual welcome.
As of this trip, that unique aroma is gone, replaced by a light odor of stale animal waste. My grandmother took in a low functioning chihuahua about three years ago, and the dog is slowly and thoroughly ruining all the flooring surfaces in her home. It won’t housebreak, and it’s incapable of turning right. Seriously. The dog might be a reincarnated Nascar driver. It only turns left. When it’s excited, anxious, fearful, doesn’t matter. The only emotional arrow in its quiver is a left turn, and the only dichotomy is the circumference. The dog can run around the whole room or spin in place, but only and always left.
Lefty shit on one of my most important and reassuring emotional stimulants.
I also stayed with my parents, who live across town, and we share a love of food, especially comfort food best consumed with big spoons or served in casserole dishes. Because we’re New Mexicans, that means a heavy dose of Hatch green chili goes in everything produced in our kitchens. Throughout the week, my folks made all the staples for fall: red beef enchiladas, fire roasted salsa, smoked burgers, and green chili chicken stew.
While I associated backed goods and sweets with my grandparents’ home, I’ve always associated the aroma of meals with my parents, and especially the foods that take a day or two to get just right in a crock or stockpot. Bubbling green chili anything reminds me of the best parts of my childhood, and I have no unfond memories or emotions associated with it. I never caught a beating over the dinner table, never fought over a kettle of green chili. Comfort foods have historically made all the hurt and misery of the outside world go away. That’s their magic, isn’t it? No matter what the day and the world brought to your doorstep, the right foods and aromas improved everything they touched.
As such, the consistent and predictable wonderfulness of my parents’ home helped buttress my emotions and the loss of the Blodgett Street Scent. The disappearance of that emotional, olfactory experience altered my perception of the trip. I regarded its replacement as a bellwether of things to come, a foreshadowing of my grandmother’s seemingly imminent decline into managed in-home care. My concerns over what the light stink meant conspired with her increased hearing loss, the occasional repeated story, and the often-repeated questions to erode my confidence in her long-term stability.
Although she’s now 86, she remains independent and self-sufficient. There’s nothing she can’t accomplish on her own with enough time and naps between exertion. I think I’ve taken that for granted, though, and I should begin managing my expectations. Thanks to a left-leaning chihuahua, I have to confront my grandmother’s increasing fragility and forthcoming dependence. I regret having never attempted to define its source ingredients, although I doubt I could recreate it at any other time or place.
In the meantime, I need to get her out of the house long enough to have the flooring scrubbed and sanitized. If you’re in the market for a left-loving fecal factory, please inquire within.
This excerpt outlines how the start of the pandemic affected the noise level of an undergraduate college campus.
The early days of quarantine were quiet and calm, as the streets around my home in Southern California were filled with silence since there were fewer cars and people roaming outdoors. Sanitizer and rubbing alcohol were in high demand, and in heavy rotation in our home, as everything that came in was wiped, sprayed, and cleaned before being put away. I remember coming home from the store and wiping down every item with alcohol and sanitizer, and I remember wiping down every counter, surface, and phone. Afterwards, the house was filled with the sharp and dismal aroma of rubbing alcohol, as the fragrance mimicked a well-diffused scented candle. The distinctive scent wafted throughout the living room and lingered within the walls, the drapes, and the furniture. It became the scent of March 2020, and a home fragrance which lacked the expected or traditional calming or soothing properties of a candle or diffuser that is placed in a room. Every outing resulted in rubbing alcohol-infused surroundings, which served as a constant reminder of the changing climate. Eau de Sanitizer recalled the uneasiness, fear, and chaotic shops of the early pandemic, as it was a fragrant reminder of the unknown. The memory of that spring is tied to the scent of rubbing alcohol, and now every time I light a candle in my living room I am reminded of those early days.
When schools shut down, there was a transition period where teachers waited to find out what they would need to do next. When that was decided, our work week was drastically changed. To achieve equity, we gave 30 minute lessons over Google Meets to anyone who wanted to show up twice a week. This meant a lot of free time--which meant reading!
I went to the local bookstore and there was a line: only 5 people allowed in the massive 1-block building at a time. When I was permitted entrance to the silent space, I had to accept hand sanitizer from an automatic dispenser. This was not my first encounter with the substance, but it was the most memorable. The machine whirred and spit an enormous amount into my hands, completely filling my palms with watery, reeking sanitizer. I looked around for a towel or space to shake it off...there was so much! It began sliding through my fingers and dripping down my arms, a cold, slow trickle that spread the hospital scent with it. I frantically began rubbing my hands, but even so, huge glops of it splattered on the linoleum floor as I quickly walked to spread the leaking substance more thinly over the floor and avoid creating a puddle. The sterile and unpleasant smell stuck to my skin and followed me throughout the store, into my car, and to the end of my day.
This will be hard to forget, and it made me buy my own, thicker hand sanitizer that I could control, and that smelled like pineapples and mango, and raspberry lemonade (it took some time to order, though, because so many companies were out of product). I didn't realize then, in April 2020, that machines like this would be everywhere, or that upon return to my classroom the next April, I would have my own gallon jug of it to offer students. The smell and the feel of that bookstore experience still make me cringe, yet this scent and substance have been normalized and their presence is expected and sought out. The whir and the waft of alcohol will not leave my senses, and, though they tell an important sensory history of this pandemic, I wish they would.
A week after the first shutdown began in March of 2020, schools were shut down and I was no longer able to complete my student teaching. I was furloughed from my job and locked inside for what we originally thought would be two weeks. With no end to the lockdown in sight and nothing to do, it became stressful and quite boring. Living with my parents at the time, the entire family was locked inside and tensions were high. One day, my mom got a call from a former coworker whose dog had just had puppies a month prior. She offered us a puppy and my mom, knowing how sad I was at not having a job or an internship, accepted and I was able to pick any puppy I wanted. Freyja, my dog, was my Covid-consolation-puppy. She was very young and I was up all night and all day with her, potty training and playing with her. My time was entirely consumed by this puppy and I was never bored or alone again. We joke that she was a consolation puppy because I never got to complete the typical training any teacher before received. A few months after the first shut down ASU canceled graduation and went virtual, it was another blow, and knowing I would not be able to walk the stage to get my degree was tough to handle. However, Freyja made things easier and took my mind off things. She grew with me and she became my best friend and protector. When I moved out, she kept me safe. When I separated from a long-term partner, she was what I found joy in. I love my dog very much because she came into my life when I needed her most.
2. Description: Among the most commonly observed effects of Covid-19 on patients are deteriorations (temporary or permanent) of taste and smell (Dell’Era et al. 2020, p. 1591). During the Italian Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, Novara University Hospital conducted a cross-sectional study examining the extent of smell-and-taste related disorders among patients confirmed to have contracted the virus. Results from the study suggest that an overwhelming share of patients experience sharp alterations in both senses, the severity of which differs from subject to subject. While extreme symptoms disappeared a fortnight after subjects participated in the study, a portion of respondents reported lingering sensory effects resulting from the virus (Dell’Era et al. 2020, pp. 1591-96).
Back to school is always a scary day for kids, but it can be for teachers too--especially after getting used to remote learning for so long. 2020 was my first year as a teacher. I started teaching online, and we eventually transitioned back into the classroom. For me, it was my first time in the classroom. I was super nervous about teaching and about all of the risks involved with school reopening. Thankfully, my school administration helped make everyone feel comfortable, and we had a lot of fun celebrating the start of school! This is a picture with a coworker of mine, my "classroom neighbor."
As someone who has studied the history of disease and epidemics, I know that disease causes widespread fear and panic. The uncertainties and unknowns of disease cause people to question themselves, others, and even medical professionals. Sometimes, questioning and being skeptical is what saves lives. For example, questioning Dr. Rush's treatment methods in the yellow fever epidemic of Philadelphia or questioning miasma theory during the outbreaks of cholera in London. Recently, there have been cases of blood clots as a result of the Covid-19 vaccine. This is a screenshot of what WHO has to say about the blood clots and a comment from myself. While I would love to get the vaccine, and I was originally hopeful about getting it, I'm too scared and unsure what to do. Although WHO says cases of blood clots are rare, there are still many people like myself who are skeptical and only want to make the right decision for their own health and life. With talk of possible mandated vaccines, I am uncertain about what the future will look like for me and others like me.
After a year as subeditor, I was lucky enough to be appointed the 2021 editor of Chariot, the undergraduate history journal at the University of Melbourne. As an initiative to raise student engagement and make history more interesting, I worked with the university staff and one of our previous contributors of the journal in turning her essay into an exhibition in the university's Arts West building. Unfortunately, due to the lockdown, I was unable to see the exhibition in person myself, but the experience of putting it together from start to finish was a hugely rewarding one.
Before Melbourne went back to its fifth round of lockdowns, a friend and I bought tickets for an exhibition on French Impressionism at the National Gallery of Victoria. It was an absolutely amazing feeling, not only just being out of the house but also being able to see these famous paintings which I've only seen images of online previously up close. While nowhere near an expert on art or art history myself, my experience in working in a museum and putting together a small exhibition earlier in the year made me appreciate the carefully curated exhibition.
Due to the pandemic, I had to scrap my original plans of travelling after finishing my degree and to apply for jobs instead. I have always dreamed of working in economic policy, so I applied to the graduate economist program at the Australian Treasury in Canberra, my dream job. Going through the entire recruitment process remotely was a peculiar experience, and was, in some ways, even more daunting than doing in person interviews. When I finally received an offer, I felt that I was dreaming. In some ways, the lockdown was a blessing in disguise for me, as I would not have applied for the role if it was not for the pandemic disrupting my original plans.
Despite the lockdowns, there were a few brief periods throughout the year where Victorians were able to safely venture beyond a five kilometre radius of our homes. On the day I finished my semester one exams, I met up with a group of friends and together went bowling at Melbourne Central. While I received a rather embarrassingly low score, we all hugely enjoyed the feeling of being able to meet up and have fun in person to celebrate the end of exams. None of us would expect another round of lockdowns only a few weeks later, and looking back, I certainly wish I was able to cherish that night more.
Despite most activities being cancelled due to restrictions, I was lucky enough to score four free tickets to the Boxing Day Test cricket match in Melbourne at the MCG, and I brought three of my friends to the match. It was actually my first time at a live sporting event, so it was particularly memorable for me. Rather scarily, we soon found out a few days later that one of the spectators on that day would later test positive for COVID-19, leading me to take a COVID test myself, which thankfully turned out to be negative.
As an introvert, I never felt affected by a lot of the changes that took place when Covid struck. I stay at home most of the time if I am not at work, and I don't often go out in large social gatherings. I love my personal space, and I prefer the anonymity of wearing a mask. Sometimes, Covid felt like an excuse to stay home and do the things I love. This is not to underestimate the challenges that everyone faced; I just faced the challenges through my health and job, not social distancing or quarantining. These memes reflect a lighthearted view of what it was like to experience Covid as an introvert.
When COVID hit and schools were forced to shut down, education had to transform in many ways. Students began remote learning through video conferences and online tools like Google Classroom. Moving online not only took away a lot of the personal interaction and connection between students, but it made learning the content even more difficult. Students were less motivated, it was more difficult for them to ask questions and get their questions answered, and many students began to fall behind. Transitioning back into the classrooms has helped students begin to pick back up from where they left off with their class content, but there are still so many absences daily in classrooms all across the country. This article discusses the issue of how future generations will be impacted by the COVID education crisis.
Teachers all over the world had their entire profession change when Covid-19 struck. They had to take on more roles and wear new hats. This article shares the story of three teachers and their experience with remote learning and thoughts on returning to school.
The day I had worked so hard for had finally come, and I sat on my couch to celebrate. Years of dedication, essays, long lectures, early morning lectures, scholarship hunting, and finals stress had all amounted to me celebrating my graduation in my pajamas. It didn't feel real. I cried for a while, and I think it was okay to cry. COVID-19 took away special things from everyone. It has taken away special loved ones, special plans, and special events/celebrations. For me and so many other college students, it took away a very special moment--the pride, sense of accomplishment, the payoff. Colleges around the country tried to imitate graduation the best they could with virtual ceremonies. Some ceremonies featured pictures and quotes from students, and most colleges provided an online commencement. I was too sad and frustrated to watch my commencement on the day of my graduation but watching it back has made me realize how much more my degree means to me.
A blog post from Banner Health about risks associated with gathering.
A blog post from Banner Health about the long-term effects Covid-19 can have on the lungs.
A blog post from Banner Health about risks associated with gathering.
A blog post form Banner Health about safety risks.
A blog post from Banner Health discussing guidelines about outside activities.
A blog post from Banner Health on how to safely dispose of and store medications.
A blog post from Banner Health on managing the urge to emotionally eat.